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Blog: Hurry Up and Waste

City rushes to reconfigure Harbor Drive at the expense of public dialog and taxpayer money.

I recently attended the two meetings on the proposed reconfiguration of Harbor Drive and Herondo. What were sold as meetings for public input, became a showcase for what is wrong with our City processes and staff’s attitude toward public input and spending money.

The main topics of the meetings were the reconfiguration/improvement of the Harbor Drive bike path and this sudden city love affair with traffic circles, or more properly, “roundabouts.” While there were many public comments at the first meeting, there were two common themes that rose to the top by the majority of the public participating. One was that the bike path should go down both sides of Harbor Drive. And second was a concern about a two way bikepath crossing all the driveways along the west side of Harbor Boulevard. There were also a variety of ideas on where roundabouts might work. The consultant thanked us for our input and said they would digest it, nothing was in concrete, and they would come back for a second public input meeting.

Before the second meeting, the City Council had a “consent calendar” item with a grant application for a roundabout at Herondo/Harbor intersection disguised as “the bicycle transportation plan implementation project.” If you follow city processes, a “consent calendar” item, is an item that is approved without discussion. The staff report that went with the item contained only a summary description of the three items—a road diet on Prospect, a road diet on Catalina, and the roundabout. No diagrams, no traffic analysis, no justification. 

This is bad from two perspectives. First, the city was still supposedly receiving public input on the Harbor Drive modifications. Second, they tried to hide three major street changes under the guise of a bicycle plan without proper public notification and debate. What this shows is City staff’s total disregard for meaningful public input and dialog. They were ramrodding this through and trying to disguise it from the public. 

When we went to the second meeting on the Harbor Drive reconfiguration, we were presented the exact same solution that the consultant had briefed in the first meeting. Other than some lipstick, there was no incorporation of the public concerns and input from the prior meeting. What was worse, the consultant stifled public input and made statements about their proposed solutions that were inaccurate. For example, the consultant said a roundabout will always outperform a signalized intersection. After consulting the ITE Highway Capacity manual, I verified that this statement is not correct. Then I asked about the traffic analysis (for the second meeting in a row now).  He did not have it with him…how convenient. Then I asked the source of the pedestrian, vehicular and bike traffic data. He said there was no one study, they had to cobble it together. That is a red flag. And indicates the project was rushed and improperly performed.

When I pointed out that the most prevalent accident in traffic circles is bike/car accidents. He threw back that there has only been one death. What about broken bones, concussions, lacerations, torn ligaments? No response. This guy was dead set on a traffic circle no matter what.

I asked if they had derived their solution based on the upcoming CenterCal development at the south end of Harbor Drive. No. 

Had they asked for input from CenterCal? No.

Had they projected any increase in vehicular, bicycle traffic, and pedestrian traffic based on the CenterCal project at the South end of the harbor? No. 

Staff is spending our tax dollars on a study that does not consider two impending harbor changes that could totally negate the design being finalized now. In a few months we will have CenterCal’s first cut at what will where in the harbor. In our public discussions on that development, the bike path has been a major topic.  Traffic circulation at the south end of the harbor is a major area of focus for Center Cal. And, on March 5, we will know the out come of the Measure A vote on the AES property. Measure A zoning allows another 30 feet of right of way for bikepath expansion along Harbor Blvd.

And finally, to add insult to injury, Councilman Tucker from Hermosa was justifiably upset that our City staff had not started consulting with their staff. But what was really telling was his strong push for real public input from the residents of Hermosa. The plan presented chokes Herondo down to one lane coming down to Harbor Drive which affects traffic circulation in Hermosa. Hermosa owns 20 percent of Herondo. Obviously, he felt the same way Redondo residents felt.

The consensus of the majority of the attendees was that the public input was really just a charade. The plan was obviously baked and done before the first public session. Otherwise, how could City staff have finished the grant application and had it on the City Council agenda between the two meetings?

Why the rush? Why not do this right? Why would we design a major street reconfiguration that could be made obsolete in a matter of months by harbor revitalization plans and the vote on Measure A? Why are wasting our limited taxpayer money on a consultant that is designing to today’s traffic and circulation? Why waste the time of the public, when the solution is already baked?

It is bad enough that our City staff supported the pretense of public input. It is bad enough that they tried to slip a fast one by the public on the City Council agenda. But to ignore the impending changes to the harbor area is just plain poor management and leadership. We are wasting money on a consultant now. And, we could spend millions on a street configuration that will be obsolete in just few short years. This is not the first time staff has charged ahead without due diligence. Look at the dry fountain at the PCH/Catalina triangle. $1.8 million of taxpayer funding wasted on a dry fountain.

Shame on our City management. This is so obvious, it is inexcusable. Our City seems to be out of control. Someone needs to show leadership and rein this in. How dare they try to circumvent public comment by using misleading titles on agenda items on the City Council’s consent calendar? They have shown a blatant disregard for any meaningful input of the public that pays their salaries and future retirement benefits. They have shown they cannot be trusted to be good stewards of our limited public funds. And they have shown either an unwillingness or an inability to integrate related activities and planning. 

Who is at the helm? Where is the leadership? We deserve better.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

sheri patterson February 01, 2013 at 11:05 PM
The 1.8 Million in wasted tax payer funds on the dry fountain is the biggest joke. We're al reminded of the waste as we drive by it every day. It's an embarrassment. There is no way without due diligence they can properly and responsibly plan this street configuration without factoring in the revitalized pier development. And how could they not include Hermosa in the discussions?
DR February 02, 2013 at 02:43 AM
Jim, I'm confused. When you were a Public Commissioner, you resigned after approximately 1 year? Why? Was it because the city had not adopted your direction nor embraced your ideas? Was it because the process was too slow to get anything done? Now you've drafted Measure A and are in a hurry to get it through, "Now or Never". Yet you ridicule the City of Redondo Beach and CenterCal for moving too fast. Seems inconsistent to me.
Jim Light February 02, 2013 at 03:16 AM
Doug, When you can't win the debate on the merits of your argument, go for the smear campaign. I resigned from the Public Works Commission when the City was going to put my name on documents I did not have the time to review properly, did not agree with, and contained misleading information. It had nothing to do with adopting my direction. It had everything to do with integrity. I am proud of that decision and would do it again today. The City has lost several of its most valuable Commissioners for similar reasons. They forced one out for taking a position contrary to the City's position. I am not in a hurry to get Measure A through. It is following the standard election process. It was open to more public review than any city document. It actually incorporated public feedback. It was reviewed by multiple law firms and Coastal Commission staff. Not sure what you think is rushed. We tried to get the City to act for two years. They did squat. Please point out what is inconsistent. Measure A is good zoning. It is the most balanced commercial zoning in the city. There is something for the City, something for the residents, something for visitors, something for surrounding businesses and it is fair to AES. When the debate is lost, slander is the tool of the loser. Plato
Joan Irvine February 02, 2013 at 06:44 PM
Your favorite quote on FB: "Trust but Verify" - Ronald Reagan This effort of the South Bay Bicycle Coalition (SBBC) has been in action for over 15 months and there has been lots of outreach:dozens of workshops citizen input meeting,, media, meeting with several cities, etc - so they have been informing the public. I would ask that anyone who reads this post to please go to the source to find out the facts for yourself - https://www.facebook.com/groups/275185246865/
Jeff Melodia February 02, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Another good resource is the SBBC website itself http://www.southbaybicyclecoalition.org/ The organization promotes safe bicycle access and education This was part of the overall master plan approved by all the participating cities. Redondo Beach is in the forefront of obtaining grants to fund these projects.
Jim Light February 02, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Joan - I looked at their plans, but none went to this level of detail. Besides, this is not just a bike path, this is a major road reconfiguration. Residents who are not avid bikers would not expect that major vehicular traffic changes would result from a bike plan. This was a "workshop"on reconfiguring Harbor Blvd/Herondo for "public input". The goose was already cooked when they held the "workshops". If they did not want public input, they should have advertised the meeting differently or canceled it. Even bicyclists who participated felt the meetings were a waste of their time. Hermosa residents and a Councilman who attended were outraged their city has not been consulted on the impacts to the major shared intersection. But the BIGGER issue is we are wasting taxpayer money. The consultant admitted they had not looked at future traffic patterns driven by the harbor revitalization. Why would we spend the money without integrating the obvious changes impending in the harbor?
Jim Light February 02, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Jeff, As a bicyclist, I support improvement of bike paths and connectivity throughout the city. But in the Master Bike Plan I do not see the specificity related to Harbor and Herondo that was presented in the City meeting this week. Maybe I missed it. Saying we need a bike track does not drive the conclusion that a roundabout is needed at Herondo and Harbor or that we need back in reverse angle parking on Herondo. These deserve open public discussion.
Charles Park February 04, 2013 at 12:52 AM
Resign if you don't agree with something. If you make it to council will you resign at the first sign of disagreement?
Jim Light February 04, 2013 at 02:12 AM
Of course not. This was not about a disagreement. This was about integrity. A Councilman's vote is clearly recorded. The Council can slow a process or review down to ensure adequate consideration. The Council can direct staff to take action. A Commission cannot and is at the whim of City staff and their set schedules and priorities. Any Commissioner is powerless to exercise any authority over City activities. For me it was an integrity issue. And I would do it again. I was able to accomplish much more outside the Commission construct without impacting my integrity. Even Aspel has said Commissions are a speed bump on the way to the Council. You can pick out one instance from nearly a decade ago and try to twist it to something bad. But, I stand behind my decade long track record of championing resident quality of life and my lifelong commitment to integrity.

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